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Tool-use observed in molluscs! Answered

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Everybody knows that humans are "special", somehow different from the other animals on our little blue planet, but it is very difficult to define just how.

An early casualty in defining "special" was tool-use.  First chimpanzees, then primates, even birds were observed using tools - hammers, anvils, probing tools, fishing rods, weapons.

Now a mollusc is being presented as a tool-user.

The veined octopus Amphioctopus marginatus has been filmed by divers collecting coconut shell halves (actually human litter, dumped in the sea) and carrying them away to use later as a shelter.

Their habitat is open, featureless sediment, no protection from predators.  The shells provide vital shelter in the exposed underwater plain.

If the octopus finds a single half-shell, it digs it up, carries away and then turns it over when needed.

If the clever creature is lucky enough to find two halves, it stacks on inside the other, then later "rebuilds" a whole coconut, except this time with a yummy octopus filling.

This is another example of high-level intelligence in these bizarre animals.  To me, octopus are a prime candidate for the next "special" animals on Earth, once those polluting apes are out of the scene...

Museum Victoria article by original researchers, with video online.

Full story from Current Biology, with downloadable videos.

BBC story with video online.


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user
=SMART= (author)2009-12-16

Ima mollusc
Ima mollusc
Ima mollusc 
iiiiiiiiIma mollusc
ima mollusc
ima mollusc
ima mollusc

Thats the mollusc song.

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Tunesrlife (author)=SMART=2009-12-29

I can hear the tune through the text
...and it's bothering me
I can't for the life of me remember where that comes from.

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Tunesrlife (author)2009-12-29

Well, we're the only creature on the planet that harms the environment more than helping it.  I'm sure there's a more educated way to phrase that, but our 'niche' is (as a general population) to destroy.   ...Sadly.
Also, language.  We've got the largest vocabulary of any speices.
As far as we know...

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Kryptonite (author)2009-12-20

Where is tool using animal?!?

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Wasagi (author)Kryptonite2009-12-22

 Well, this broadens the list of species he could be...

I was so ready to say he was an otter!

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Kryptonite (author)Wasagi2009-12-29

Which also use rocks and the sort to break open shelled fish. :D

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crapflinger (author)2009-12-15

if they're considering the use of found objects as shelter as tool use...what about hermit crabs? they take over shells that have been abandoned (either by other crabs, or snails)...they even take soda cans and other jetsam for houses....wouldn't that count?

of course...i'm not personally willing to deny the cephalopodian use of tools (it's not safe...they might hear you)

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Kiteman (author)crapflinger2009-12-15

The definition most scientists use for tools is, roughly, something taken somewhere else to be used later for something else.

Hermit crabs use the shells immediately, but the veined octopus carries the shell away for later use as protection, and if it finds two halves it "rebuilds" the original coconut shape.

Watch the videos - this is definitely deliberate behaviour, rather than pure instinct.

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crapflinger (author)Kiteman2009-12-16

oh i'm not denying the obvious tool use....just wondering why the crab thing doesn't specifically count...i know it's on the fringe...but it could work

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Kiteman (author)crapflinger2009-12-16

It's because the crab thing requires no planning or fore-thought.  The crab is not aware of a future need for the shell, just that right now the old shell is too small and needs replacing.

Tool-use requires planning.


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Kiteman (author)Lithium Rain2009-12-15

Indeed - it's a shame cuttlefish die when giving birth.  Imagine what they could learn to do if they were able to hang around and teach their young!

People always think dolphins are intelligent, but to me, intelligence is nothing without the ability to manipulate your environment, and you can't get a much better combination of strength, dexterity and sensitivity than in a tentacle.


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V-Man737 (author)Kiteman2009-12-16

I'm hoping English will evolve to spell that word "Cuddlefish."

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Lithium Rain (author)Kiteman2009-12-15

I've always thought it would be neat to keep an octopus or squid of some variety. I've heard they will tap on the glass of an aquarium with stones to get your attention at feeding-time. On the other hand, I've read that some of them are nearly impossible to keep in tanks (they keep escaping!), so maybe I don't want one!

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Goodhart (author)Lithium Rain2009-12-15

Salt water tanks are frieghtenly expensive to maintain.  Many of the fish are not very tolerent of temp and mineral content changes.

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NachoMahma (author)Goodhart2009-12-15

> Salt water tanks are frieghtenly expensive to maintain.
.  Bah! Not that much more than freshwater aquaria. Yes, as with any hobby, one can go overboard and spend a ton of money, but it's not necessary.
 
> Many of the fish are not very tolerent of temp and mineral content changes.
.  Marine animals do tend to be more sensitive than freshwater ones, but there are many that are quite hardy.
 
 
.  Saltwater tanks are more expensive to setup and maintain and the critters tend to be more expensive, but not so much as to scare someone away from the hobby.

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Goodhart (author)NachoMahma2009-12-15

Depends on what you like as fish I suppose.  I had a few fresh water tanks that ran for years on a monthly cleaning and an aeriator.

A friend of mine had a salt water tank that cost him in the neighborhood of $80 a month to maintain.   Still, he may have been a little more "into it" then most.   It took at least an hour of his time daily and several on the weekends.

And I wasn't attempting to scare anyone away from it,  just making sure they "weight the costs and effort involved" before commitment. :-) 

The salt tends to concentrate itself through evaporation, and this doesn't normally happen in fresh water tanks as much.

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Kiteman (author)Lithium Rain2009-12-15

I saw a news article about a mystery in an aquarium.

It started as the regular disappearance of large crabs from a tank, and ended with an explanation of the huge weights they had to keep on top of the octopus tank once they realised that he was opening his tank every night, sneaking out for a snack, then closing his tank behind him before the staff arrived in the morning.


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lemonie (author)2009-12-15

Good stuff, I like tentacled-things...

L

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